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Interim care order..?

I'm hoping people can either put me on the right track or share their own knowledge/experience. We took some advice from a family lawyer, and need to seek some funding before going any further. She says the next step in the process will likely cost five to eight thousand in legal fees, but it seems like a relatively simple process which I'm sure could be done without the lawyers. I'm trying to research the relevant paperwork but don't know the name for this kind of order. I think the Victorian equivalent is "Interim Accomodation Order", but I'm in NSW.

I'm basically trying to nut out how to go about making an urgent application to an FM to retain the child pending action (despite court ordered time with other parent) due to fears for child's safety and wellbeing (parent's mental health declining). The problem is, I have to apply to legal aid - which I understand can take some time, but the child is - in our view - in danger now, so we believe it'd be best to intervene ASAP and retain the child until we can seek an urgent hearing. Either way, if I can do it myself, I'd much rather save the $$$! Family laywer think there are good chances at getting pushed through the system quickly, as there's been pressure on the courts to take caution with mental health matters since this whole Darcy Freeman story has been in the media.

If we did manage to get an interim care order (or whatever the correct term is), and then ended up having our case turned down by legal aid, would there be any kind of backlash for having retained the child..? If it were my case I'd probably be willing to self represent at that point, but my partner is not at all confident with doing that, and obviously I can't "self represent" for him, so it's not an option. Any ideas..? Thanks :)
Rabbit,
          have you considered the SRL-Resource? There are options such as bundled and non-bundled use of solicitors (partial use of solicitors to cut costs). They'd be aware of how to expedite a hearing. Here's a link to the join page SRL-Resource - Join Information.


It may be possible for you to assist your partner along the lines of what is known as a "McKenzies Friend". Here's a link to a guide. A Guide to McKenzies Friends.

Have you looked at relevant cases. Here's a recent one in regards to mental health issues. Hadley & Pock.
@Rabbit…. I understand the situation to be

1. a final orders application has been filed,  
2. you have the child in your care,
3. current orders state that the child is to spend time with other parent.

Re the 'current orders' - how did these orders come into effect? Are these interim orders, final orders? How did they come about?

Has a FM considered your 'risk of harm' concerns previously?

4MYDAUGHTER
Thanks Mike, I shall check into that further. As far as the idea of being a Mackenzie friend, I hadn't considered that and it's great advice… but from what I read on that link, I can't do it if I'm a witness in the case, and there's a good chance I would be a witness at some point. Otherwise that probably would have been the perfect solution.

4md - sort of, but not quite. Situation has changed unexpectedly.

Final orders in place, by consent way back in 2003. They name the mother as residential parent but father has care 7/14 nights. Mother's mental health is always up and down, but steadily declining over recent months judging by the erratic/delusional behaviour the child is reporting (and recently, I and others have witnessed).
 
Mother has been hospitalised for extended periods 3 times over child's life, but even when she's functioning and apparently medicated, she still makes false reports, AVO's, calls police etc, indicating an ongoing pattern of paranoia/instability (or possibly borderline personality, but I can't make that call). She's only admitted to a diagnosis of bi-polar (we believe she was playing it down for an affidavit) but has psychotic breaks consistent with schizophrenia.

In the past, most of this has gone over the child's head, but now she's a bit older it's affecting her a lot more. Mother continually pressures child to lie about dad to police, counsellors, psychologists etc, causing child great distress. When child hasn't complied recently, mother has taken away all her toys and posessions, outings, treats, etc etc to punish her. Child developing signs of anxiety and unusual coping mechanisms.

Child (9 years old) is over it, and adamant she no longer wishes to live with mum. Mum checked herself into psych ward 2wks ago and we had the child at that point, and were advised treatment likely to be 4-6wks duration. However, I turn up to collect child from school tuesday, and mother has checked herself out and is leaving with her. By the things she said to me, she sounds like she's still on another planet. Principal indicated some odd conversations had occurred recently, and another parent actually approached me to say they'd been subject to her babble and didn't think she was all there.

We want to go ahead and start proceedings to remove child until mother is treated, then reintroduce visits gradually and work up to EOW and school holiday time. My partner also wants SPR and the right to retain child any time mother's mental health appears unstable. Lawyer thinks odds are good, but the estimated cost (approx $30 000) is way beyond his means. My partner's not at all comfortable with self representing, so I guess our only hope is legal aid. I've been told by another member that what I need is an ex-parte urgent hearing for an interim order, but I wonder if we do this now and then legal aid turns us down, would it make things worse.

Any further input or ideas appreciated.



@Rabbitt

Hmmm…. a really tricky situation. Problem with legal aid is that they are really slow processing applications and you need separate applications/approvals for each interim hearing.

You might need to consider shelling out $5-8k for a lawyer to do the interims. Problem is - you need a lawyer that has experience and knows how to advocate around the mental health issues you've described. Such a lawyer would be difficult to find.

You've also used some big words to describe the mother's mental state that - and I know you know this - is opinion that you're not qualified to give. So you need proof, and I'm sure its out there - hosiptal, doctors records, etc. - but you've obviously going to need to get that proof for an interim hearing to be successful.

Did the mother go into hospital of her own volition or was she 'forced' into hospital by state mental health authorities and been put on medication?

4MYDAUGHTER
We did meet with a family law solicitor who seemed to think we have a good chance. However, I don't know whether her conviction is genuine or based on her earning potential. She didn't mention needing to get evidence up front for the interim hearing though (but I guess it stands to reason that we'll need some… just where to get it?) She basically indicated she'd apply for an urgent hearing and would likely be put on the phone with an FMC from Sydney. She said she thought the FMC would likely be willing to place the child in our care until and urgent hearing could be sought, probably being rushed through within weeks or months. And she felt that the prospects were good because of all the media hype around the Darcy Freeman incident, putting pressure on the courts to act on mental health concerns. She indicated that once we had an interim order, we'd go about getting all the relevant records subpoenaed.

So you don't think it'd be a good idea to go it alone for the interim order? I was really hoping we could get away with that. Our financial situation is really tight, so my partner is very reluctant to start spending thousands on interim orders if there's no guarantee it will even get us anywhere. It's a really horrible thought that it could cost nearly $10 000 to simply be back where we started, with no way of helping the poor kid out. That would just devastate us financially. And he's become so jaded with everything that he's finding it difficult to be hopeful.

We also met with a child psychologist about a week ago. She did one session with us and the child all present, during which she asked if we'd be seeking full care. We indicated we would be at least for now, working towards reintegrating with the mother later on when she's treated. She said she thought that was probably the best thing under the circumstances. However, I don't know whether that opinion's worth anything, as we didn't even touch the surface of what's gone on, and I'm not sure one session is enough for her to really gauge the severity. I'm hoping maybe I can get her to do an assessment this week. The child has begun repeating words after every sentence (which can apparently be associated with OCD), and the mother is continually saying that the child has medical disorders (diabetes, bullemia, autism, etc), which seems to cause her some anxiety. If the psych assessed the child and her opinion was that she'd be better off with us at this stage (the child openly expresses this wish herself), would this be enough to initiate an interim order?

Yes, I know you're right… a lot of what I've said is essentially opinion, and whilst I'm confident that opinion is fairly accurate based on what I know, I realise it doesn't hold any weight whatsoever. I'm just not sure how to go about getting the proof I'll need.

From what we were told when the hospital called, the mother checked herself in - which would account for her being allowed to check herself out a week later. She has checked in once before, but on 2 other occasions, she was taken involuntarily. On previous visits, she's NEVER been there for less than a month, sometimes several. My partner rang and asked about her release, of course they wouldn't give any info, all they said is "if she's been released, then she's been treated". The child was told by the mother on thursday that the hospital gave her food poisoning - which appears to be part of her paranoid delusions, but may account for her early departure if she though they were trying to hurt her. She is often able to present well when she needs to. But I am certain from what I saw and what the child continues to tell us that she's not herself. Speaking in riddles, relaying incidents that didn't happen, constantly creating new "illnesses" for the child… I think it's only a matter of time before she's back in there, but really concerned for the child in the meanwhile.
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